Canada is in the midst of a unprecedented housing boom that seems likely to bust. I was recently in Canada and noticed a schizophrenic oscillation between housing exuberance and oil-price despair. What did it mean for the Canadian economy's outlook? Upon returning to the U.S., I did some research. What I found leads me to the conclusion that Canada is now among the most vulnerable large economies in the world. Here's why.
These factors have brought hard times to some industries and uncertainty about the impacts to the Canadian economy as the whole. While uncertainty is never comfortable, it can present some opportunities and challenges depending on your situation or sector. Here are three to watch for the rest of the year.
No matter how you slice it, Harper has failed to lead Canada towards a sustained economic recovery from the financial crisis seven years ago. It doesn't matter how much public money he spends on ads claiming otherwise. Facts are facts. So, what does a government facing re-election do when its top agenda item, economic management, is in tatters? It changes the channel to something else.
To reinforce his obvious campaign themes about fear and insecurity, Stephen Harper has taken to describing Canada's current economic situation as a "crisis." If that's his pitch, one should ask under whose watch did this so-called "crisis" develop? Our country is no doubt in an economic mess, but calling it a "crisis" is simply a scare tactic.
Tightening U.S. monetary policy suggests that the Canadian dollar will remain weak. And in spite of competitiveness concerns, exports are rising enough this year to suggest 10 per cent growth, and an added 6 per cent in 2015. This in turn will spur business investment, lifting Canadian GDP growth to 2.8 per cent in 2015.
Labour Day is a day of camaraderie and solidarity that I enjoy, and look forward to each year. It's a day to celebrate all that we've achieved, a day to feel the power of togetherness and to recommit ourselves to the struggle ahead. From Leamington, to Toronto, it's clear that this economy is not working for people and their families. Factories continue to close, and unemployment in this province remains stubbornly high. Our once strong, stable middle class is quickly becoming a class of precarious workers.
Income disparity also means that working and living in the same place is a luxury few of us can afford -- not just in third world countries, but in small Canadian rural communities as well. Ironically, our stronger economy is also leading to a weaker society. We can't be there for one another as much as we once were. We're too busy making money.
If Canada can make the right choice and tone down the 'dig baby dig, drill baby drill' mentality, not only would Canada not be worse off economically, but we would have a safer environment, and be able to seize the incredible opportunities to invest in the sophisticated clean technology that is going to power this century.
While the probability that a train-load of inappropriately classified oil products would careen down a hill in rural Quebec and explode, killing 47 people and contaminating a fragile lake ecosystem was so infinitesimally small as to be almost incalculable, the consequences were devastating and will be felt for generations.
Some of the largest natural resource projects in all of North America are now sprouting up in the North and eastern Arctic with major companies taking risks alongside northerners. Together, companies and communities are reaping incredible rewards. Labrador's Muskrat Falls project has accelerated the completion of a paved highway and fibre optic line from Goose Bay to Labrador City.
Becoming an entrepreneur used to be a "they" thing: other people did it, but unless you had one in the family, it was a career shrouded in mystery. How do you get started? Do you have to be an inventor? What does it actually take to work for yourself?
The recent announcement by the federal government that it will fund Toronto's subway system is not good news for Canada. It means more of the same style of infrastructure funding we have always had. Instead of predictable, reliable and rules based projects, Canada is riddled with a mish mash of almost completed and almost dead projects politicians pick and choose to save (or not).
Under Stephen Harper, household debt has exploded. The average household debt-to-income ratio (the amount of debt the average Canadian household owes for every dollar of their annual disposable income) has risen from $1.31 to $1.64 -- which is where the United States was before the housing market crashed.
If you need to build connections from scratch, be fearless. Pick up the phone. Write the letter or email. At conferences and social events, approach people and be approachable. Be clear about your value proposition and needs. Ask how you may help them, and ask for support. What's the worst that can happen? They politely decline.
I'm enthusiastic about the bright future that is ahead if we can continue to foster and encourage governments, business leaders and young students to look beyond the limits to make the impossible, possible. I find myself wondering what it will take to win in this Third Industrial Revolution, and I keep coming back to our youth, these students whose brilliant minds know no limits. Are we doing enough to encourage and inspire them? Are we finding the right venues to foster innovation and commercialization of the best ideas in Canada, or will we retain our role as an exporter of raw goods, rather than an information economy of the future?
For Canadian employers, the overall business environment raises many questions. What can we do to drive growth? How can we improve productivity while still controlling costs? How can we produce high-quality goods and services to remain competitive both at home and globally?